‘No strings attached’ in China grant for Estrella-Pantaleon bridge rehab — Legarda
MANILA, Philippines — China’s P1.2-billion grant for the rehabilitation of Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, which connects the cities of Makati and Mandaluyong, has “no strings attached.”
This was Senator Loren Legarda’s answer to Senator Grace Poe’s question on how the Philippines would repay China’s “non-conditional” grant.
“It is a grant, it’s a non-conditional grant, there’s no strings attached, ito po ay bigay (this is a gift),” Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, said on Monday during Poe’s interpellation on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget.
Legarda even said in jest that a smile and a handshake from DPWH Secretary Mark Villar would be enough to express the country’s appreciation for the grant.
Legarda claimed that the bridge has exceeded its capacity of 22,000 persons per day and is now carrying 35,000 persons daily.
She also cited the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recommendation to build structures in the area that can counter an intensity-8 quake in preparation for the “Big One.”
Poe, however, insisted that the government should reconsider the 30-month closure and rehabilitation of the bridge, citing how it would contribute to the already hellish traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
“Why will it take 30 months, that’s quite a long time and it will really inconvenience the public. Instead, why not consider adding another bridge as opposed to rehabilitating before you’ve added another bridge,” she said.
Poe also questioned the participation of the Chinese firm banned by the World Bank for fraudulent practices in the rehabilitation efforts of the bridge.
China Communications and Construction Corp., the project’s contractor, was banned by the World Bank in 2009 for anomalies related to several multi-billion-peso Philippine road projects it had funded, Poe noted.
Legarda said that since the project was just a grant, the Chinese government “decided on the implementers of the projects, with collaboration from the Philippine Government.”
She also pointed out that the World Bank sanctions were lifted two years ago.
The widening of the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge is part of the Metro Manila logistics network, a traffic management master plan created to decongest Metro Manila by adding 12 additional bridges crossing the Pasig River, Marikina River, and Manggahan Floodway.
The bridge will be closed starting Jan. 19 to give way to the demolition and reconstruction. /ee
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